LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Everton manager Roberto Martinez said he rushed midfielder Ross Barkley back from injury too soon last month and would take no risks with the 20-year-old to keep him fit for the rest of the season.
Barkley, whose performances have helped Everton stay in contention for a top-four Premier League finish and guided them into the fifth round of the FA Cup where they face Swansea City on Sunday, was ruled out for three weeks with a broken toe in January.
Martinez brought him back into the side for the Merseyside derby against city rivals Liverpool on Jan. 28, but he put in a subdued display and was then hauled off at halftime of Everton's next match against Aston Villa.
"I think Ross is so eager to play and make himself available I did bring him back too early, especially against Aston Villa," said Martinez, who kept Barkley on the bench until the 64th minute of their Premier League defeat at Tottenham Hotspur last week.
"When you come back you get through with adrenaline but it is when you need to rest from that first game, he needed more time.
"It was too early for him to start the game (against Villa) but Ross is a young man who can get through anything.
"You have to be careful because he will never be conscious he is feeling any pain.
"He is such a joy to work with we have to make sure he is fully recovered and is fully refreshed and ready to have a massive impact from now until the end of the season."
Everton's on-loan striker Lacina Traore is in line to make his debut against Swansea, one of Martinez's former clubs, after making a swifter than expected return to fitness.
The 6ft 8ins (2.03 metres) tall Ivory Coast international joined AS Monaco from Anzhi Makhachkala earlier this month, but was loaned out immediately to Everton on a six-month deal.
"Lacina Traore has been really sharp in training, he has surprised everyone how quickly he has got his fitness levels high," Martinez told a news conference. "We need to make sure there is no risk but clearly Sunday is a good opportunity for him to be involved."
Martinez, who won the FA Cup with another former club Wigan Athletic last season, feels a good run in the competition will not hinder Everton's chances of challenging for a top-four finish.
"Success in the Cup can really help in the league and the other way round," Martinez said.
"You just need to find enough strength in the squad to face both competitions if you have a pile up of fixtures." (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Josh Reich)
- Sports & Recreation
- Ross Barkley
- Roberto Martinez
- Aston Villa
- Premier League